Autumn is in the air, it’s been a while since the summer sales, and while winter clothes are in the shops, it’s not yet cold enough to start thinking about wearing heavy fabrics.
Well don’t despair – beat the mid-season blues with this quick and easy project that will lift your mood. Best of all, the pattern does not cost a cent!
Hi. My name is Nicola and I originally trained in Garment Construction, before working for a freelance pattern maker. I ended up discovering that I need to work with words and people, so I moved out of the fashion industry, but sewing has remained in my life as one of my favourite creative hobbies. It's all about nourishing the soul with whatever brings us happiness - I think you'll agree with me on that!
In this post, I will go over a great free pattern that I found on an inspiring home sewing site. It is designed to be made in woven fabric, but I've mixed it up by adapting the pattern and making it in French Terry.
Here it is. I think it looks gorgeous. It's called the ruffle top pattern and is available to download free of charge on the sewdifferent website, run by the fabulous Laura Casey.
The top is a basic raglan design, with a bust dart for extra shape, and drama added by a ruffle sewn into the front bodice/sleeve seam. There is a simple collar with back opening.
To follow the original, the fabric needs to be a light to mid-weight woven, with lots of drape. Viscose and Rayons are just perfect for this design. Either a patterned fabric, as shown in the original, or a plain would be suitable.
The pattern plus sewing instructions are available here. When I downloaded the pattern, I found that the A4 pages were not numbered, but it was easy enough to figure out how to put them together. Here are all the pages laid out in the correct order.
The margins of the printout were fairly narrow – around 5 mm – so to give the pattern strength, I used sticky tape to tape the different pieces together. This also means the pattern pieces will be pretty sturdy, so I can fold, trace and even cut the pattern in the future, when I want to use it as a base pattern to create new designs.
Now, I am fussy with my patterns, which comes from being professionally taught. I tried to be as accurate as possible when sticking the different sheets together. If the pattern isn't right, there will be lots of problems when you try to start assembling the garment.
I then went through and placed the pieces together at each seam to check (start at the neck, so that any differences can be cut off on the other end of the seam). They matched, except along the seam where the front bodice is sewn to the front sleeve. I found that the sleeve was longer by about 12mm. This was easily fixed, by shortening the sleeve seam by 12mm.
I also found that, when I folded the dart, the front and back bodice side seams were out by 8mm.
To fix it, I marked a new top-of-the-dart stitching line 8mm below the original, which gave the side seam that extra length.
Now, this pattern is designed for a woven fabric, but when I saw it I thought it would also be great in stretch fabrics. I’ve used it to make a top using French Terry. I wanted to make something nice that I could pull over my yoga gear, on the way to class.
The colour I selected is one of my favourites. It's a cross between aqua, and a smoky sea green. Thank you MaaiDesign for stocking quality fabrics in colours that you cannot find in the shops! By making it myself, I got something in luscious fabric for much less than a name brand item, and in a colour that I love.
French Terry Raglan Top
If you want to try my idea, by making this top in a terry, you will end up with a more casual garment.
There are a few ways that you could adapt the design for a stretch fabric. You could keep the ruffles - they would look good just overlocked along the edge, particularly if you were using a contrast thread. You could also add interest with contrast ribbing and twin-needle topstitching. I went for no ruffles, fake fur trim, and twin-needle topstitching.
The neck is fairly high and wide - more of a boat neck than a standard neckline for a raglan. If you want to change the collar, it might be a good idea to scoop it a little at the centre front.
To create a new neckline, trace out the front bodice and sleeve pattern pieces onto paper to make a new copy (you shouldn’t need to alter the back neckline, so you won't need the back pattern piece). Pin the front bodice piece to front sleeve, and try it on. Sketch a new neckline, using pencil as you will probably make a few lines before you are happy. (Remember that this pattern has 1.5cm seam allowance, but you will be using 1cm seam allowance for ribbing.)
Take off the pattern and go over your final neckline with pen, so you know which line to follow. Add the 1cm seam allowance, and cut along this line.
When working out your ribbing pattern, follow this formula:
Ribbing should be one third shorter than the edge it is applied to. First, measure your neckline – along the actual stitching line, not along the edge of the paper. You might want to draw the stitching line on the back bodice pattern as well, and pin all the pieces together along the sleeves, in order to get an accurate measurement.
You now have the half neckline measurement (as you have measured centre-front to centre-back). Double this number for the full neckline measurement.
For the ribbing, you will need to find 2/3rds of this number for the final ribbing measurement. You will then need to add 1cm seam allowance to either end, so that comes to final ribbing length + 2cm.
The width should be double the final width measurement. I’m recommending 1.2 cm, so that makes 2.4cm. Then add the seam allowance for either side, so that is 1cm + 1cm. This means that the width is 2.4 + 2cm = 4.4 cm.
You can now draw a rectangle that is 4.4cm wide, and the length that you have come up with. Once you are used to this formula, you will find it easy to create patterns for ribbing.
The other finishing touch for a stretch fabric is to add topstitching. This looks really effective when done with a twin needle. If you are confident about your sewing, you can choose a contrast thread. Often, a shade or two darker than the fabric looks really snazzy.
I topstitched in a jade colour, and added fake fur trim to the neckline, and fake fur cuffs.
I also have a confession to make.
I looked at that photo of Laura Casey and thought "I am just not that skinny. I don't think that pattern will fit me." (Sad face)
Despite not drinking sugary drinks, avoiding chocolate (does once a week count?) and generally being careful with my diet, I am no longer the size 8 - 10 that used to find buying clothes easy.
So I snuck in a bit of extra room. I did it by using my grading skills, and creating new pattern pieces. To do this, you trace part of the pattern, move it out by set measurements, and trace the next part. I added 1 cm to each side of front and back, and because a raglan incorporates the top of the bodice, I added 1cm to the sleeve. I also added 3cm for the hem. Here is a diagram to show what that looks like, with the original pattern lines in black, and the new lines in red.
Happy stitching, and don’t forget to share the photos of your creations using the ruffle top pattern, MaaiDesign’s Viscose and Rayon, and the French Terry, by tagging us with @maaidesign and #maaidesign. We love seeing your inspiration and creativity!